On-Page SEO in 2021 – A DIY SEO Guide
On-Page SEO – An SEO Guide for Beginners
Hello fellow marketers! Let’s talk about on-page SEO.
I get alot of questions from clients and marketing agencies on how on -page SEO works and if its something their staff can do in-house. Now, if you have been following any of my articles on such topics, you know I’m always going to start off by saying that SEO should be done by professionals. But many people these days aren’t in a position to pay for professional services and also find themselves with lots of spare time.
I thought it would be better to create a separate thread here, but feel free to read over that thread first as it contains some interesting preliminaries.
If anyone here is already targeting the following keyword, or I mention any of their sites then I apologize in advance, but I need to pick something for an example.
Step 1 – Choose A Keyword – On Page SEO
The first step is to choose a keyword.
This is just a base keyword. You are not creating pages to target keywords. You are creating pages to target topics. Most know this, but what you probably aren’t aware of is that, when you target a page for a keyword for on -page SEO , you automatically optimize it for the topic. This means we shouldn’t be too concerned with “topics” vs keywords. Just be aware you are targeting a topic, and not just a single keyword.
In some cases there isn’t a main keyword to target and the topic will contain several searches around 100-200 volume per month compared with your main keyword having say 400 search vol, then a bunch of 20-50 search vol. In those cases you’ll pick a few keywords to try to optimize. It’s harder in those cases, but if you guys want a guide on that I can write one later.
For this example we’re going to choose “best laptop for nursing students”
Step 1.1 – Identify the topic – On Page SEO
The on -page SEO topic here is laptops/notebooks for nursing students. Obviously. But we’re thinking now in terms of the English phrase and not just the single keyword. If the keyword was “duplicate content” then your topic could be a number of things. Looking at page 1 for that keyword, there are a range of topics from avoiding creating duplicate content, to how to fix a duplicate content penalty. So as you can see this is an important step. Identifying your topic.
Step 1.2 – Identify the user intent
Next you identify the user intent with respect to on -page SEO . This just helps you write a better article. For this keyword it’s really obvious, but for the above “duplicate content”, it’s not. You should always look at what ranks on page 1 for that keyword to find out what the user intent is unless it’s very obvious. For quality on -page SEO, you need to match what Google thinks the user intent is, with what you decide it is. For our example, the user intent is to find a good laptop that’s best suited for nursing students. They want to find something that’s unique for them, and not just any old laptop. They are probably wanting to know, are there laptops that are particularly useful for nursing students compared with the rest.
Step 2 – Check Competition/Volume
Use ahrefs for this.
Ahrefs is a great tool to help you with your on -page SEO. You check the base search volume for the keyword, but more importantly you want to see the traffic/keywords from pages that are on page 1 for the main keyword. Sometimes you have a low volume keyword(50-100), but it has a lot of longtails in the group, so if you target the group you’ll get quite a bit of traffic.
This is how you do it.
This one has 400 searches a month, which is a good search vol for the main keyword.
You can also see some other questions here which helps when creating the content.
Some related keywords like “best laptop for college nursing students”. Important things to note, because this is clearly part of the keyword group, so we note this for our optimization.
Now let’s look at the top 10 in ahrefs
We can see that these pages are ranking for generally 30 keywords on average. The ones with 100 or so keywords have duplicates in ahrefs showing up because of html bookmarks in the table of contents. This is just a ‘bug’ from ahrefs. It’s quite annoying actually because it makes it hard to compare pages. You have to use the content gap tool to see if one page *actually* ranks for more, but they don’t. For example laptop study ranks for 2 more keywords than laptopconsider. Only 2.
So what we can see from this is that it’s a very small topic, with only about 20-30 keywords in the topic.
If we take laptopsconsider.com/best-laptop-for-nursing-students/, the one without the html bookmarks we want to check how many of those keywords are in the top 15. You might have pages that rank for 4k keywords, but only 500 are top 15. Anything outside the top 15 for a page ranking in the top 10 for its main keyword you can consider irrelevant and not ones you want to target.
So 23 keywords.
This leads us to
Step 3 – Gather your main keywords for the topic
Let’s look into laptopsconsider.com/best-laptop-for-nursing-students/ to get our main keywords.
And actually this one has html bookmarks too. There’s really VERY few keywords in this group.
So really that is just
- best laptop for nursing students
- best laptops for nursing students
- laptops for nursing students
- best laptop for nursing school
- nurse laptop (they’re ranking here in almost page 1 because this isn’t going to have any big sites targeting it like “gaming laptop” would)
- best computer for nursing school (this is getting a bit more irrelevant here, but google probably considers the user intent close enough to laptops)
- best laptop for college nursing students
- best laptops for college nursing students
- nursing school laptop
- top laptops for nursing students
That’s us really. It’s a VERY small keyword group. This here is very important. This is the core group of keywords that are part of this single user intention. These are all connected quite strongly and are essentially “one”.
Step 4 – Gather Topics/Questions to cover
This is an important step inon -page SEO.
Look through a few pages in the top 10. Ignore outliers that are in the top 10. ie, strong sites, sites with short content, sites that are different to what you’re creating (ecommerce, videos etc.)
Note down a few topics/questions. Let’s take a quick look here :
- nursing school
- college students
- minimum requirements
- maximize productivity
- time in nursing school
- the usual laptop ones, weight/battery/display/cpu/ram/storage/performance/portability/design – These are important to get your laptop and laptop review topical relevancy.
- note taking
- tablet vs laptop
- webcam/online courses
That’s enough for this one.
So you have your core on -page SEO keywords and your topics now you need to include.
Step 5 – Word Count
This is an easy on -page SEO step. Just look at the word count for what’s in the top 10. Exclude outliers. Generally you want to look at what the weaker sites are doing because if a weaker site is up there with a strong site, it has better on-page. If there’s 3 sites that are quite weak, with 3500, 4500 and 4600 words, then go for something between 3700 and 4800. I like to keep costs down, so I’d probably in this case go for 3800 words personally. You don’t need to beat everyone on word count, just be in the general ballpark and at least above the lowest.
Step 6 – Word & Phrase Usage Counts
This is where some people get confused about on -page SEO and think about “keyword density”. Google isn’t checking for percents. Percentiles are irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter if an article is 2000 words or 4000 words. It just needs ENOUGH usage of keywords so google knows what the page is about. The title is NOT enough. I don’t care if you’ve ranked pages with just the keyword in the title. There are so many factors in SEO. It doesn’t prove anything. Try to consistently beat the kind of articles ranking for this nurse article by only using “best laptops for nursing students” once in the title. You just won’t. They are ALL optimized for it. Even the guys on page 2-3 are optimized here. Where you CAN beat these guys is through *better* optimization. They may be using the core keywords enough times, but there’s other areas some of them lack that you can improve upon.
So with that said, let’s look more at what you want to do in this step before writing.
First, your core keyword. This is a fairly simple one, and in the vast majority of cases, you want to use the core keyword like this :-
title/h1, and h2/h3, and 1-2 times in the body, generally somewhere in the first few paragraphs. Absolute minimum of using it 3 times. There’s no reason not to. Using it 3 times in a 1000 word article is still not going to put you into dangerous territory. Help google out. It is just an algorithm. It does not understand when you’re saying things like “one of the major advantages that the asus XYZ has for nursing students is that it’s really sturdy with an extra long battery life, so it’s ideal for moving around from lecture to lecture”. You as a human know that this is very relevant for “best laptop for nursing students”.
This is actually how Google would parse that sentence :-
advantages of asus
asus for nursing students
asus is sturdy
asus has long battery life
moving from lecture to lecture
I don’t think it would connect that the asus is GOOD for nursing students who ARE moving around from lecture to lecture. That’s too advanced.
So look at those topics there. That’s not really what you were going for
Compare it to this
“One of the best laptops for nursing students is the Asus XYZ. It has an extra long battery life which is really good for busy nursing students who are studying at a university that has its lecture halls spread out and need a good durable laptop they can carry with them from lecture to lecture that won’t run out of battery so they can take notes in every class with their laptop”
See the difference here?
Google will see this as
“best laptops for nursing students”
asus xyz is one of the best laptops for nuring students
Extra long battery life
busy nursing students
good for busy nursing students
studying at university
carry with them
take notes in class with laptop
Lots of usage of “laptop”, “nursing”, “student”, “best” in here.
Don’t get too stresses about on -page SEO. Google is just an algorithm, folks! Stop thinking you have to write amazing content to RANK. You have to write amazing content so your site lasts for a long time, and you eventually attract some natural links, but to RANK, you just need to give it what it wants to see.
Now, with an understanding of that..
Look at your competitors on page 1. Avoid the outliers as always.
I use surfer seo to help me with this next bit, but you can do it manually.
I’ve selected a bunch of pages in the top 10 to compare to and this is what it’s telling me..
It recommends 4300 words.
This is slightly useful. While “18 paragraphs” isn’t going to rank you, it helps to stay closer to what the competition are doing. It’s just giving you a general guideline for what google wants to see for this keyword group.
What’s more important is this
The “important terms to use” is the most important.
We can see here we should be mentioning “best laptop for nursing students” about 7 times. “best” 24 times. “laptop” 64 times. “nursing” 45 times, “students” 34 times, “nursing students” 25 times.
This is not keyword density. How in hell is google expected to understand your page is relevant for the topic if you say “best laptop for nursing students” once, mention laptop 10 times, and “product” or some generic phrase the rest of the time, say “nursing” 5 times, “students” 8 times etc. It will just see other words more often, other phrases and consider THOSE more important.
A human might understand if I say(Extreme example to highlight the point)
“The best laptop for students is the Asus XYZ. This product is really good for the aforementioned party because when they are at their place of occupation they will have many duties to perform with their product, so for the reasons already mentioned and more, this product is truly one of the greatest around for those with this occupation doing these kind of tasks daily”
You’d understand, right? Google would have NO clue you are talking about students, laptops and university.
Do you think a 5 year old would understand that? No. So what makes you think Google is smarter than a 5 year old human child? That’s beyond ludicrious.
Using surfer seo is helpful, but you don’t need to follow it *exactly*
Ie, it’s saying to use “12 hours” 3 times. That’s probably not necessary
And based on your core keywords you also want to adjust.
So we might use “best laptops for nursing students” 5 times and “best laptop for nursing students” twice, and maybe include a “the best laptop for nursing school students” in there too and I’d probably go for “best computer for nursing students” twice just to get some relevancy going for that since it’s an easy one to snatch. On top of that I’d say “computers” a few times, and not just laptop. I’d probably go for some things like “computers for students”, and “computers for nursing students” too which would help get that ranking.
For the single word ones you don’t have to specifically use “laptop” 64 times. Use it as a guideline only. If your usage is particularly low, like 10-15 crank it up. Just look through your article and look for places where you can change words to more keyword rich words without making it look weird.
Places like :-
“The product is blah”, or “It’s a good choice”, “This one is such and such”, you can change to “The laptop”, or “The asus laptop”, “The asus laptop is a good choice for nursing school”, “the asus laptop is a good choice for nursing students”, “the asus laptop is a good choice for college students”, depending on what keywords you’re beefing up.
Finally, you can throw in a sprinkling of the “other relevant terms”. For this, things like “core i7 processor”, “thunderbolt 3”, “solid state”. I personally don’t pay much attention to that, because providing you have a good writer doing the content, they will already have included plenty of these “technical jargon” type keywords. And these are less important than you might think. Google is really just looking for the core stuff like “laptops”, “nursing students”, “best”, “best laptops”, “best laptops for nursing students”. For it to be able to make meaningful sense out of things like “solid state” and “thunderbolt” as it pertains to reviews is too advanced.
Step 6 – Write the Content – On-Page SEO
Step 5 was sort of talking about “rewriting stuff” for on -page SEO , so you can consider step 5/6 interchangeable. If you’re using a standard writing service you’ll have the content done then re-write yourself. If you’ve got your own writer you can train him up. If you’re writing the content yourself you’ll still probably do a post-analysis and tweak some things. Same with a writer. When you get bigger you can get an in-house SEO that you train up to manage your writers and handle all of this, pre and post optimization content work for you.
So that’s on -page SEO.
Nothing more to say really! That’s how you rank in google, guys. It’s not about keyword density, or “high quality content”. Google is an algorithm and as such you have to write as if you’re writing for an algorithm, but also keep the quality high for your readers so your site remains future-proof. High quality content is good for your readers, meaningless for google. Google’s favorite “do what’s best for the users” is pure crap and just their attempt to get people to focus less on on-page seo, and just write stuff.
good luck. I hope this is of value to some of you.